Building Toys

Building Toys

Building Toys

Building Toys

“These toys are a special case. They present a box full of possibilities rather than a fully formed object. Construction toys allow the user to participate in the creation of the toy itself.”


The idea for the book originated from the desire to share the details of the little-known, but highly intriguing, range of architectural construction toys, many of which I have collected over the years. I felt that my professional skills as an architect, and my related skills in graphic design and photography, would provide the tools necessary to communicate the wonder of these toys, and provide an increased appreciation even for myself.

Work on the project further caused me to confront the ways that the history of architectural toys mirrors the history of architecture itself. Some toys and buildings have looked forward while some looked back. And more fundamentally, how most building toys have adapted the strategies of standardization and interchangeability which the pre-fab construction industry was founded on. In this way and others, the toys have participated in a sort of modernism.


I have owned most of the building toys featured in the book for some time. However, research undertaken for the book caused me to discover rich histories of the various designers and the manufacturing companies responsible for producing the toys, often as a sideline to their primary products. This research also includes discoveries of patents associated with many of the toys which credit the actual designers and inventors, many of whom have otherwise been long forgotten.

—John Rock


“Each of these toys is comprised of a set of parts and a set of rules. There are hard rules and soft rules.”


"Many, if not most, people have hobbies or avocations of some sort. Sometimes these are consciously distanced from the person's actual vocation. At other times they are related to it as here in architect John Rock's impressive collection of architectural toys. Generally, these examples take the form of various building types: houses, stores, churches, gas stations, etc. Many of them came originally in packaged sets of parts of the "erector set" or "Richter block" type. Most were intended for simple enjoyment but many have an


instructional component as well. Rock's fine collection includes, for example, different versions of the famous Froebel blocks, or Froebel 'gifts' that so influenced the childhood development of young Frank Lloyd Wright. Rock's collection is presented here with his with own photographs and descriptions. It is good to have it for our own instruction and enjoyment."

—Thomas S. Hines, Professor Emeritus of History and Architecture and Urban Design, UCLA

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© 2023 ORO Editions. All Rights Reserved. Designed by Organ Creative

© 2021 ORO Editions.
All Rights Reserved. Designed by Organ Creative

© 2021 ORO Editions. All Rights Reserved. Designed by Organ Creative

© 2021 ORO Editions. All Rights Reserved. Designed by Organ Creative

© 2021 ORO Editions. All Rights Reserved. Designed by Organ Creative

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